Saturday, 18 May 2019

Sega Saturn: The Nostalgic Little Giant

A game console that needs all of the introduction, yet none of it. The Sega Saturn was a front runner of CD based, 3D technology while also delivering to the lowest common denominator when it comes to simplicity. What more could one ask for? While it sold to millions in Japan, the Saturn’s capabilities were sorely misconstrued between developers and that was a big reason why its numbers suffered in the US. Despite this, their library is packed with some of the most entertaining and hard hitting games of the time and if you can play then on anything play it on a Sega Saturn! Their ports were lacking in some cases, but there were some golden gems that were clear as day to those in the know.

Why is the Saturn loved so much? What could have possibly driven some people to not be able to move on? Even the Dreamcast, the semi-perfect successor (opinionated) to the Saturn seemed to pale in comparison when it came to those who clung to the 5th generation (since no one counts the 32X). Playstation is objectively the better system of the time, and many of its shared ported games were just better, by and large. Why the Saturn?

If you need to ask that question, then words will never convince you. You may think it’s an act, but it’s far deeper in meaning. The concept of loyalty shouldn’t apply to a piece of hardware from the mid 90’s, nor should we ever express deep or meaningful love to inanimate objects, it’s just not healthy. Well, we’re humans and we are prone to unhealthy choices. The hours upon hours put into games like Panzer Dragoon Zwei, Virtua Cop, Virtual On, and X-men vs Street Fighter are enough to make the current gaming industry look like a pile of rocks by comparison.

First of all, young generation, games back then didn’t need add-ons, downloadable content, nor did they need in-game purchases to make the game easier. Yes, that’s right, we may be old, but we can still hold that pile of horse flop over your heads. Fight me.

In all seriousness, this is a love letter to Sega Saturn and it is simply put in the context of an explanation. To do that, you would need to hear the story of a boy and his brother waking up Christmas day, thinking that they had opened all of their presents the night before. Yes, they did that sometimes. Then the big day comes and both of them find a big huge box labeled Sega Saturn underneath their tree. Within the box were three games: Virtua Cop, Virtua Fighter 2, and Daytona USA all included with the system.

Now, let’s pause. In this moment, obviously, some of us feel a twinge knowing that we could have kept the console inside the box, and sold it 20 years later for much more profit. However, that is not what a ten year old and a twelve year old were thinking at the time. The box was opened, and the system was hooked up. We were hooked up. In the prime of our mental development, we were taken from our 16-bit era and thrown into the era of boxy pixelation, blood, and monstery, fiery death.

If that is not enough to explain 10% of the nostalgia factor inherent in the Saturn, try the fact that the controller was the most user-friendly controller of its time. Six buttons all in a row was far better than four buttons front, four buttons back. You just needed two bumpers, six buttons and you were set. Fighting games were a breeze to learn and improve upon because it was very much set up like the arcade games we played at the time (Which are happily showing new signs of life here in the precursor of the 2020’s). If you even think about telling me how the N64 controller is better, I would like to invite you to my palm coming very close to your face. Enjoy that conversation.

You could make the argument that we were in the prime of our youth, and now blinded by rose colored goggles. In all fairness, you could very well be right. However, where’s the problem with that? Yeah, we’ll bring up the Saturn into normal conversation. You may find it strange because everyone had a Playstation back then, as far as the normal consensus is concerned. The Doom port was terrible, but the fact that we can play it with the controller while also having it on our favorite system is well worth it; (if only the games were cheaper!) to us, at least.

Whatever your reason for loving the Saturn or hating it, human opinion is a moot point. What matters is that if we want to consider it as a front-runner of its time, laughing at us doesn’t exactly help. The system has been sorely misrepresented on the internet as a relic of a past age, fed upon by leeches who can’t let 95 - 96 just die already. If you took just two seconds to look at us in action, you’ll see that not all of us are the trolls that say Saturn is better and your consoles SUCK in comparison. There are plenty who will freely admit that the Playstation is a better system, but get that over-hyped garbage out of my face!

The representation it has gotten on social media and youtube has been shoddy to say the least. So-called “Sega Saturn Fans” have been rolling over for the Playstation just because it’s the better system overall. Let’s be real, here, how much better of a system was it? If I wanted to buy a Playstation or that atrociously produced Playstation Classic system, I would have done so by now. There was plenty of opportunity, but why would I waste my time? Whatever exclusives it has are ported elsewhere and a PS3 is a perfectly fine substitute for it. The Sega Saturn does not have that kind of support, though it is growing that support as we speak.

It’s kind of beautiful that it’s being celebrated recently, and I, for one, really hope we get a classic system for it. If for no other reason than to get maybe a good thirty or forty new people to love the Saturn along with us. The community is not exclusive to 90’s kids, newcomers to the Saturn are always welcome. The library is gigantic when you look at the forest for the trees, and people are still making fan ports for it.

So please, do not cram the Playstation in our faces when we mention Sega Saturn. The system did a good number of games better than the PS1, and it had exclusives that are still treasured to this day. If one of the Saturn fans out there could put it into more understandable words, by all means, write it down and share some thoughts and memories in the comments. It’s a great system, tell us about your favorite games and your early recollections. Maybe you even have guilty pleasures on it, like mine, Sonic R. There’s nothing wrong with having guilty pleasures, but if you think the Sega Saturn is one of mine, I would like to reaffirm my statement before about my hand, and that wonderful conversation you can still have with it.

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